Activision Blizzard’s purchase of MLG is a literal game changer

5 Jan 2016

In a move that is likely to change the future of e-sports, one of the world’s largest video game publishing companies, Activision Blizzard, has purchased the business of Major League Gaming (MLG), with aims of making it comparable to football or American football in viewing numbers.

While still unlikely to be known to the average person on the street, the recreational viewing of e-sports – where people watch professional video game players battle it out online or in arenas – is rapidly moving towards general acceptance on a par with traditional field sports.

Research from the middle of last year showed that the number of people watching people play video games, in a competitive tournament, is now larger than many major nations, with 134m people around the world tuning in.

Not only that, but the amount of money generated through corporate sponsorships, merchandise sales and tickets sold for venues reached $143m in North America alone, which doesn’t even take into account the continent of Asia, where at least one university is already offering courses in e-sports.

With this in mind, it becomes abundantly clear why Activision Blizzard announced today (5 January) that it was acquiring MLG to take it to the next level.

‘Create the ESPN of e-sports’

While no financial figure was cited in the announcement, reports suggest that MLG was purchased for somewhere in the region of $46m.

With expectations that the number of people watching e-sports in some capacity will more than double to 300m people worldwide by next year, Activision Blizzard sees one almighty cash pile ready to be taken advantage of.

With the former CEO of the sports channel ESPN on its team, it’s no surprise that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick describes the acquisition being part of its attempt to “create the ESPN of e-sports”.

With MLG continuing to operate under its own name, but under Activision Blizzard’s brand, Kotick went on to say: “MLG’s ability to create premium content and its proven broadcast technology platform – including its live-streaming capabilities – strengthens our strategic position in competitive gaming.

“MLG has an incredibly strong and seasoned team and a thriving community. Together, we will create new ways to celebrate players and their unique skills, dedication and commitment to gaming.”

Gamer at an MLG event image via Colin Taber/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic